Definition of “on” - English Dictionary

“on” in British English

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onpreposition

uk /ɒn/ us /ɑːn/

on preposition (ABOVE)

A1 used to show that something is in a position above something else and touching it, or that something is moving into such a position:

Look at all the books on your desk!
Ow, you're standing on my foot!
Your suitcase is on top of the wardrobe.
They live in that old house on the hill.
I got on my bike and left.

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on preposition (CONNECTED)

A1 covering the surface of, being held by, or connected to something:

There's blood on your shirt.
Which finger do you wear your ring on?
Can you stand on your head?
We could hang this picture on the wall next to the door.
Dogs should be kept on their leashes at all times.
UK We've just moved house and we're not on the phone (= not connected to the phone service) yet.

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on preposition (TIME)

A1 used to show when something happens:

Hair salons don't usually open on Sundays.
What are you doing on Friday?
My birthday's on 30 May.
Would you mind telling me what you were doing on the afternoon of Friday the 13th of March?
The bells in the clock tower ring every hour on the hour (= at exactly one o'clock, two o'clock, etc.).
On a clear day you can see the mountains from here.
She was dead on arrival (= dead when she arrived) at the hospital.
Please leave your key at the reception desk on your departure from (= when you leave) the hotel.

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on preposition (WRITING)

A2 used to show where something has been written, printed, or drawn:

Which page is that curry recipe on?
His initials were engraved on the back of his watch.
What's on the menu tonight? (= What food is available?)

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on preposition (TRAVEL)

A2 used for showing some methods of travelling:

She's coming in on the 5.30 bus.
We went to France on the ferry.
It'd be quicker to get there on foot.

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Thesaurus: synonyms and related words

On or off

You can also find related words, phrases, and synonyms in the topics:

on preposition (PROCESS)

used to show that a condition or process is being experienced:

He accidentally set his bed on fire.
Max's on holiday this week.
I often get carsick when I'm on a long journey.
Crime is on the increase (= is increasing) again.
UK Their flights to Paris are on special offer at the moment.
UK I'll be away on a training course next week.

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on preposition (RECORDING)

A2 used to show the form in which something is recorded or performed:

How much data can you store on the flash drive?
When's the movie coming out on DVD?
I was really embarrassed the first time I saw myself on film.
What's on TV tonight?
I wish there was more jazz on the radio.

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on preposition (PAIN)

B2 used to show what causes pain or injury as a result of being touched:

I hit my head on the shelf as I was standing up.
Be careful not to cut yourself on that knife.

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on preposition (TO)

A2 to or towards:

Our house is the first on the left after the post office.
The attack on the village lasted all night.
I wish you wouldn't sneak up on me like that!

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on preposition (RELATING)

B1 relating to:

Her talk is on Italian women's literature.
The minister has refused to comment on the allegations.
Criticism has no effect on him.
Do the police have anything on you (= do they have any information about you that can be used against you)?

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on preposition (MONEY)

A2 used to show something for which a payment is made:

He spent180 on a hat.
I've wasted a lot of money on this car.
We made a big profit on that deal.
How much interest are you paying on the loan?

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on preposition (INVOLVEMENT)

used to show when someone is involved or taking part in something:

I'm working on a new book.
"Where had we got up to?" "We were on page 42."

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on preposition (FOOD/FUEL/DRUG)

B2 used to show something that is used as food, fuel, or a drug:

What do mice live on?
Does this radio run on batteries?
Is he on drugs?

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on preposition (NEXT TO)

B1 next to or along the side of:

It's a small town on the Mississippi River.
Our house was on Sturton Street.
Strasbourg is on the border of France and Germany.

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on preposition (MEMBER)

C1 used to show when someone is a member of a group or organization:

Have you ever served on a jury?
There are no women on the committee.
How many people are on your staff?
UK She's a researcher on a women's magazine.

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on preposition (AFTER)

happening after and usually because of:

Acting on information given to them anonymously, the police arrested him.
He inherited a quarter of a million pounds on his mother's death.
On their return they discovered that their house had been broken into.

Idiom(s)

onadverb

uk /ɒn/ us /ɑːn/

on adverb (CONNECTED)

A2 on your body or someone's body:

It's very cold so put a coat on.
She wanders around the house with nothing on.
Can you remember what he had on (= was wearing)?
I tried on a few jackets, but none of them looked nice.

covering the surface of something or connected to something:

Screw the lid on tightly.
Surgeons managed to sew the finger back on.

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on adverb (OPERATING)

B2 used to show when something is operating or starting to operate:

Could you switch on the radio?
Would you turn the TV on?
You left the bedroom light on.

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Thesaurus: synonyms and related words

On or off

You can also find related words, phrases, and synonyms in the topics:

on adverb (NOT STOPPING)

continuing or not stopping:

If her phone's busy, keep on trying.
Stop talking and get on with your work.
If Elise would just hang on (= wait) a little longer she'd definitely get the promotion.
The noise just went on and on (= continued for a long time), and I thought it would never stop.

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on adverb (TRAVEL)

B1 into a bus, train, plane, etc., or in the correct position to start using some other method of travelling:

The train suddenly started moving as I was getting on.
Her horse galloped off as soon as she was on.

on adverb (PERFORMING)

C2 performing:

Hurry up with the make-up - I'm on in ten minutes.
The audience cheered as the band came on (= came onto the stage).

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on adverb (MOVING FORWARD)

B2 continuing forward in time or space:

They never spoke to each other from that day on (= after that day).
What are you doing later on?
When you're done with it, would you pass it on to Paul?
UK Move on, please, and let the ambulance through.
UK You cycle on and I'll meet you there.

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on adverb (HAPPENING)

B2 happening or planned:

Is the party still on for tomorrow?
I'm busy tomorrow, but I've got nothing on the day after.
I've got a lot on at the moment.
Food had to be rationed when the war was on.
Are there any good movies on (= being shown) this week?

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on adverb (POSITION)

used when talking about the position of one thing compared with the position of another:

It's amazing nobody was injured because the two buses crashed head on (= the front parts of the buses hit each other).
UK The bike hit our car side on (= hit the side of the car rather than the front or back).
UK It would be easier to get the bookcase through the doorway if we turned it sideways on (= turned it so that one of its sides is at the front).

(Definition of “on” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

“on” in American English

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onpreposition, adverb [ not gradable ]

us /ɔn, ɑn/

on preposition, adverb [ not gradable ] (SUPPORTED BY)

supported by or resting at the top of another thing:

There is snow on the ground.
You put pudding in the pie crust and then put whipped cream on.

onpreposition, adjective, adverb [ not gradable ]

us /ɔn, ɑn/

on preposition, adjective, adverb [ not gradable ] (ATTACHED TO)

attached to or forming a part of another thing:

Read the instructions on the bag.
Hang your coat on that hook.
Don’t screw the lid on so tight.

on preposition, adjective, adverb [ not gradable ] (COVERING)

covering or wrapping another thing:

The child had no shoes on her feet.
You should put a coat on.
The baby’s got nothing on (= is not wearing anything).

on preposition, adjective, adverb [ not gradable ] (BROADCAST)

being broadcast:

What’s on TV tonight?
I wish there were more jazz on the radio.

on preposition, adjective, adverb [ not gradable ] (TRAVEL BY)

used to show a method of travel; via:

It’s easy to get to the beach on foot.
Two people rode by on horseback.

On is also sometimes used to show you are getting in a vehicle:

It’s time to get on the bus.

onpreposition

us /ɔn, ɑn/

on preposition (AT)

at, near, or next to a particular place, thing, or person:

They live on Carlisle Street.
Which page is that cheesecake recipe on?
El Paso is on the Mexican border.
Princess Caroline was seated on my left.

on preposition (STORED AS)

used to show the form in which information is stored or recorded for use with an electronic device:

How much data can you store on your hard disk?
That movie just came out on video.

on preposition (USING)

showing what tool, instrument, system, etc., is used to do or achieve something:

I made this chart on my computer.
I’m on the telephone.
You’ll cut yourself on that knife if you’re not careful.

on preposition (TAKING)

showing that a drug is taken or used:

My doctor put me on antibiotics.

on preposition (NEEDING HELP FROM)

used after some verbs and adjectives to show that help is needed from a person or thing:

We’re counting on you to drive us to the airport.

on preposition (EXISTING)

used to show that a condition or process exists or is being experienced:

The musicians are on strike.
Are winter coats on sale?

on preposition (INVOLVED IN)

involved in or doing a particular thing:

I’m working on a new book.
She’s on a diet.

On is also used to show that someone is doing something he or she was chosen to do:

There was a guard on duty.

on preposition (CONNECTED WITH)

connected with or part of a group or process:

Have you ever served on a jury?
There are two women on the committee.

on preposition (ABOUT)

about or having something as a subject:

Did you see that documentary on volcanoes last night?
Sarita’s thesis is on George Crumb.

on preposition (PAYING FOR)

showing that something is paid for or how something is paid for:

I’ve wasted a lot of money on this car.
Lunch is on me.

on preposition (WHEN)

used to show when something happens:

What are you doing on Friday?
My birthday’s on May 30th.
The flight arrived on time (= at the time it was expected).

on preposition (COMPARED WITH)

used to make a comparison:

This week’s sales figures are down on last week’s.
He’s got two inches on me (= is two inches taller).

on preposition (HAVING AN EFFECT)

used to show that something has happened to someone:

Marty is always playing jokes on people.
My car broke down on me this morning.

on preposition (POSSESSING)

possessing, carrying, or having something with you now:

Do you have any money on you?
I don’t have my driver’s license on me.

onadverb [ not gradable ]

us /ɔn, ɑn/

on adverb [ not gradable ] (NOT STOPPING)

continuing or not stopping:

If her line’s busy, keep on trying.

on adverb [ not gradable ] (TOWARD)

toward or to something or someone:

You go on and I’ll meet you at the lake.
Pass the newsletter on to Emily.

onadjective, adverb [ not gradable ]

us /ɔn, ɑn/

on adjective, adverb [ not gradable ] (OPERATING)

operating or made to start operating:

Would you turn the TV on?
The electricity hasn’t been turned back on yet.

infml Someone who is on is either performing very well or is in a situation where the person must be aware of everything that is happening and be ready to act:

Andy was really on last night – I haven’t heard him sing like that in months.

onadjective [ not gradable ]

us /ɔn, ɑn/

on adjective [ not gradable ] (HAPPENING)

happening or planned:

I have nothing on for tomorrow.
Is the party still on?

(Definition of “on” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)